GEMINI JIVE • Ready! Aim! Shaddup! Happy New Year! Splat!”

December 31, 2008

me-mask1Maralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer ©2008 ML Polak header

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, believed guns were phallic symbols. What did he know? Well, think about it: guns have three main parts — the barrel, the handle, the trigger –just like most, um, male sex-organs.

 The first woman I ever met who packed heat was a Philadelphia District Attorney whose nickname was “Tough Cookie”. Although she was not exactly your frilly-excessively feminine type, her gun was diminutive, and, if my memory serves me, encrusted with gleaming mother-of-pearl. I guess she was entitled, due to the vulnerability of her position– being in a field where unhappy customers could strike back at her any time.

 Be that as it may, the Friday after Christmas, I decide to treat myself to a first-run movie, instead of waiting for it to come out on NetFlix. My choice is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” 13 minutes short of three hours, so I’d definitely get my money’s worth. This mesmerizing movie, adapted from the 1921 short story of the same name by literary icon F. Scott Fitzgerald, is being touted as a dramatic tour-de-force for Brad Pitt, who gets to play a human being whose thoroughly unconventional life is lived completely in reverse — he’s born old and spends the rest of the story “growing down” and eventually dying, as an infant, in his beloved Cate Blanchette’s arms. 

 Fortunately I had a few remaining transit tokens, so I quickly hopped a bus across down, arriving in time to get a bargain-priced afternoon ticket. The movie was a compelling meditation on chance vs. destiny, the perplexes of parenthood, the sometimes conflicting allure of adventure vs. domesticity, and the persistence of love despite the ravages of time and memory. Especially, it reminded me at its core of “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” how our love for a particular person can become embedded in our very cells, bypassing what we think we “know” to endure forever.

 That night, Drudge Report runs a news story about a Philly man shooting another man for talking with his young son at the same movie I went to, but in a different theater. Words are exchanged. Reprimands become threats. Popcorn gets tossed. Insults are hurled. Bullets fly. A father gets shot and injured while his little boy’s a witness. There’s blood. Meanwhile, the assailant sits back down and watches the rest of the movie until the cops arrive.

 My first reaction, besides a huge sigh of relief I wasn’t there at that particular movie theater, is, Great! Maybe that incident will stop folks from all their loud yammering at the movies like they are in their own living rooms when they are really out in public. My second reaction is, Hey, cell-phone users next!

 But seriously, what’s wrong with men? I mean, really! Too often, they make war rather than love. Look, I’ll trade you one Cheney, two Bushes, one Stalin, one Hitler, one Goebbels, one Himmler, and one Atilla the Hun, for one Mother Teresa.

 And what’s that Philly jerk doing going to the movies with a gun shoved in his belt? We have metal detectors at schools, libraries, and government buildings. Are movie theaters next? Who can we trust? How can we ever relax when the guy across the aisle may start whacking off, or whatever, and if we complain about it, he could simply shoot us. Where can we feel safe?

 Meanwhile, for New Years Eve, I’d definitely welcome chilling out somewhere far from all this urban bellicosity.

 It’s an index of how much I dislike New Year’s Eve that my best one so far was spent at a Hare Krishna ashram, listening to the cacophonic gibberish of cymbals and chants of ecstasy by total strangers.

No, I do not wear orange robes or belong to a cult — unless the Authors Guild counts. It was a holiday thing way back. Just once, I wanted to experience … true tranquility as the calendar transitioned from old to new, and a friend, let’s call him “Jasper,” not his real name, suggested I accompany him to what he promised would be a gentle, if unfamiliar, setting. Granted, it seemed an unusual invite, but I was game.

After guaranteeing I would not have to speak to anyone there, join their church, use my real name, sign up for their mailing list, or eat and drink anything against my will, “Jasper” picked me up in his silver-toned van, and we drove along a winding riverside path to the ashram, located in a spacious Victorian stone mansion at the edge of the city.

Before assuming a lotus position on the carpeted floor, I quickly scanned the room. Thankfully, I didn’t recognize anyone. I was surrounded by a roomful of relaxed faces, pleasant and innocuous. Whew! No one I knew there. No one who’d waggle their finger at me accusingly, “I saw you New Year’s Eve at the Hare Krishnas. What a weirdo!” Double-whew!

Even scientists agree a sustained percussive pulse can place you into a trance, and so I gave myself over to the music. With my eyes closed, I experienced what felt like a time-tunnel journey through inner space. The chanting, the drums, the cymbals persisted and so did my internal voyage. Where I may have been anxious, skeptical, or nervous when we started, as the evening progressed, I gradually experienced trust, acceptance, and an exquisite calm.

At the precise moment the clock struck midnight, all chanting and cymbals and drumbeats ceased, while outside was unmitigated Babel: sirens and whistles and noisemakers, shouts and screams, pistols firing into the sky, a clamorous madness. Inside, the overtones left from the music hung in the air — not a hum but the faintest of vibrations that thrummed through our bodies like a caress — and we sat there, returning to ourselves, absorbing this perfect peace, illusory as it may have been, but peaceful nevertheless.

For me, that evening spent in such singular surroundings was a temporary escape from the obligatory parties, a respite from their redundant, boringly predictive patter; hypocritical air-kisses at midnight; faces stretched into taut, insincere smiles. I felt cleansed. Soon “Jasper” led me back to his van, where he surprised me with crystal goblets and waiting champagne, chilled and exquisite, so we could optimistically toast what might best be described as an uncertain future.



© Copyright 2008 ML Polak/All Rights Reserved. DO NOT reproduce or disseminate in ANY form via any medium under penalty of beheading. Yes, you can link to me. But that’s it. Contact author for syndication rates and tell your local newspaper editor they need to run this column before actual newspapers go extinct like the dodo, the auk, the bison, and real men.


ML Polak — it’s not a pen-name, it’s a real person! — is an award-winning Philadelphia-based journalist, screenwriter, essayist, novelist, editor, spoken-word artist, performance poet, workshop leader, lecturer, cat-and-dog companion, Reiki channel, and occasional radio personality. With architect Benjamin Nia, she completed a short documentary film about the threatened demolition of a historic neighborhood, “MY HOMETOWN: Preservation or Development?” on DVD. She is the author of several books including the collection of literary profiles, “The Writer as Celebrity: Intimate Interviews,” and her latest volume of poetry, “The Bologna Sandwich and Other Poems of LOVE and Indigestion.” Her books can be ordered by contacting her directly via email: Langwidge (at) aol dot com.    



One comment

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